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A novel by Mrs Gaskell, published 1853.

Ruth Hilton, a 15‐year‐old orphan apprenticed to a dressmaker, is seduced and then deserted by the wealthy young Henry Bellingham. She is rescued from suicide by Thurston Benson, a Dissenting minister, who takes her into his own house. She bears Bellingham's son. Later she is employed as a governess in the family of the tyrannical and pharisaical Mr Bradshaw, where she is discovered by Bellingham, whose offer of marriage she rejects. Bradshaw, learning the truth, brutally dismisses her. Ruth regains esteem by becoming a heroic hospital nurse during a cholera epidemic, and dies after nursing Bellingham to recovery. Mrs Gaskell's purpose in this novel was to arouse more sympathy for ‘fallen women’ who had been unprotected victims of seduction, but she shocked many contemporary readers. See also Social Problem Novel.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810—1865) novelist and short-story writer

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